Joseph Newmaker inched the door of his home closed for the last time — the divorce had been brutal. Ostracized not only by his friends and colleagues but by his ten-year-old son. He padded out of town with his son’s school bag slung over his shoulder and stuffed with necessities.
He ambled along the shoulder of a stretch of desert highway in a soiled business suit and a pair of jogging sneakers until a middle-aged man in an old pickup truck pulled over beside him. “Where to?” the man said with trepidation in his tone.
“Someplace where the grass is green.”
The man drove into the next evening without a wink. He listened to Joseph’s familiar story with interest and absent of question. “There’s an Inn up ahead. I’m sure they’ll help you out.”
Joseph stood in the road and read the license plate as the truck drove off — AWISH4U.
Joseph Newmaker leered up at the Victorian Inn. An elderly woman stood in the doorway and pulled a scarf snug around her neck. “Don’t just stand there, young man. Come on in,” she said.
He shuffled up three steps onto a covered porch. A wooden placard read — Our door is always open. “I don’t have any money to pay for a room,” he said.
“Of course you don’t,” she said. “Come, take a seat and enjoy a nice cup of hot tea with me, then I’ll show you to your room.”
A thick chain was bolted to the wall and wrapped around the doorknob. “How do you close the door?” Joseph said.
“Don’t worry about that,” she said and patted the red velvet sofa cushion beside her.
Joseph took a sip and surveyed the quaint parlor — small and elegant with eighteenth-century decor and flames billowing from a fireplace. The woman listened to Joseph’s story like she’d heard it many times before. “If you could have anything, Joseph, what would it be?”
He thought for a moment then said, “I’d wish for another chance.”
“Of course you would,” she said.
When they had finished their tea, Joseph trailed the woman upstairs and through a hallway with many rooms — each with their door open. “Why are all the doors in the house open?”
The lady put her hand to her mouth and snickered. They stopped in the hallway outside a guest quarter. “Here’s your room, Joseph.”
He scanned the room — quaint and simple while boasting the same elegance as the rest of the Inn. “Please remember not to close your door.” she said and shuffled away.
Unable to sleep with the door open, Joseph slipped out of bed and latched it closed. “That’s better,” he muttered.
When he woke up the next morning, his heart pounded. Sweat dripped from his face. He showered and ran downstairs. Before he left, the woman gave him a dollar bill. “What’s this for?”
“Spend it wisely,” she said.
He ambled along the desolate highway and replayed the last days events in his mind. It was all too familiar to him, but could not understand why. Probably just deja vu, he surmised.
Joseph didn't have to walk far before an old pickup truck idled beside him. “Where to?” the man said.
Joseph woke up in an abandoned warehouse and reflected over the past ten years. Winning the lottery with a dollar given him by an old woman had been a blessing, but he’d lost his lucrative life through a nasty divorce. Still dressed in a soiled business suit, he slung a backpack over a shoulder and heard a clinking sound. He searched around his feet and retrieved a key. He shuffled outside where an old pickup truck was parked near the entrance with its door open wide. He glanced around and yelled for someone. When no one answered, he slid behind the wheel of the truck and sped onto the highway.
Out of town, he traveled under a canopy of stars and regret. An endless stretch of desolate highway — destination unknown. Soon, he detected a hitchhiker and pulled to the shoulder of the road. “Where to?”
Joseph drove into the night and through the next day. He listened without a word to the man’s eery familiar story. “There’s an Inn up ahead,” Joseph said, “I’m sure they’ll help you out.”
The hitchhiker stood in the street and read the license plate as the truck drove away — A WISH4U.